Jeremy Roenick: 'Nobody is catching the Capitals'
0:53 | NHL
Jeremy Roenick: 'Nobody is catching the Capitals'
Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

On Dec. 18, the Anaheim Ducks were dead in the water. Their 11-14-5 record had them tied for last place in the entire NHL. Captain Ryan Getzlaf had lit the lamp once, a mid-November empty netter, reflecting an offense so inept that goaltender John Gibson couldn’t win a game in which he allowed more than a single goal. Bruce Boudreau was the clear favorite to become the NHL’s next ex-coach.

Fast forward to this week. Getzlaf has three goals in his past five games and lurks just outside the league’ top 20 scorers. Gibson is an All-Star and ranks second in goals-against at 2.10 per game. Boudreau is in the mix to win the Jack Adams Award. And those same Ducks are primed to take over the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Anaheim was never as bad as it looked early on. And maybe these Ducks aren't quite as good as they’ve played of late. But it’s clear this is an excellent team, and one that’s capable of establishing itself as the best of the West.

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Biggest jump: Minnesota Wild (30 to 19)
Biggest drop: New Jersey Devils (16 to 21)

  • 1
    1Anaheim Ducks
    last week: 3
    record: 31-19-8
    Maybe the pundits were right about the Ducks after all. The preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup have reeled off five straight wins and are 12-1-1 in their past 14. The change? An offense that’s finally living up to its paper. Anaheim has scored 68 goals in its last 17 games (4.0 per game), including five-or-more in four straight. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 2
    2Washington Capitals
    last week: 1
    record: 44-10-4
    It might seem unfair to drop a team that’s won four in a row and is 11-2-1 in its past 14, but there’s no denying what the Ducks have accomplished, either. So let’s focus on the positive: How about that penalty kill? A perfect six for six in Monday’s 3–2 win over the Coyotes to go 12 for 12 on the week. Mike Richards and Brooks Laich are turning into one of the top forward duos in the league, just in time for the stretch run. Last week: 4-0-0

  • 3
    3New York Rangers
    last week: 4
    record: 34-19-6
    While the Caps are soaking up all the sunshine, the Rangers are quietly setting themselves up for a solid finish. New York has 11 wins and 23 points since Jan. 16, the best in the Eastern Conference and second only to Anaheim in the entire NHL during that span. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 4
    4St. Louis Blues
    last week: 11
    record: 35-18-9
    A healthy Blues team just might be the best team in the Central Division. Too bad we never see them healthy. Alex Steen, the team’s second-leading scorer, is out for a month with an upper-body injury. And now second-half MVP Brian Elliott, who left the net during Monday’s game against San Jose with an apparent lower-body issue, will be gone long term, with an evaluation scheduled in four weeks. Ouch. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 5
    5Chicago Blackhawks
    last week: 6
    record: 38-19-5
    Maybe the Hawks might want to decline the inevitable invite to play an outdoors game next season. After being outclassed, 6–1, by the Wild in Minnesota on Sunday, they’re now 1-3 in these special events. Fortunately, the playoffs are scheduled to be played indoors. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 6
    6Los Angeles Kings
    last week: 5
    record: 34-20-4
    No Anze Kopitar. No Marian Gaborik. No wonder the Kings are having trouble scoring. Los Angeles has mustered just three regulation goals over the past four games, heightening expectations that GM Dean Lombardi will be a busy shopper ahead of the deadline. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 7
    7Dallas Stars
    last week: 2
    record: 37-17-6
    A big week ahead for the Stars, who have to prove that they’re better than the team that allowed a combined 13 goals and 84 shots on net in back-to-back losses to Arizona and Boston. Another stumble (or two) might force GM Jim Nill’s hand ahead of the deadline. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 8
    8San Jose Sharks
    last week: 9
    record: 32-21-5
    How about a little love for Joe Thornton? With a four-point night in Monday’s win over the Blues, Jumbo has gotten on the board in 25 of his past 28 games. He now has 41 assists, fourth-most in the league, and 55 points, good for 10th in the scoring race. Not bad for a guy who’s supposed to be on his last legs at the ripe old age of 36. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 9
    9Tampa Bay Lightning
    last week: 10
    record: 33-22-4
    Their power play was so miserable last week that it allowed more goals (three) than it generated (one). Fortunately, the one they got keyed a big 4–2 win over the Hurricanes on Sunday that propelled Tampa Bay into second place in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 3-1-0

  • 10
    10Pittsburgh Penguins
    last week: 7
    record: 30-20-8
    Why hasn’t Kris Letang generated more World Cup buzz? After picking up five apples last week, he ranks third among Canadian defenders with 17 primary assists and second with 19 secondaries. Clearly, he wants to help. Last week: 2-1-0

  • 11
    11Florida Panthers
    last week: 8
    record: 34-18-7
    Another week, another eraser game for Jaromir Jagr. With a pair of goals in Saturday’s 3–1 win over the Jets, The Mullet moved past Brett Hull into third place on the NHL’s career goals list and, at 44, blew away Gordie Howe’s mark as the oldest man to score 20 in a season. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 12
    12New York Islanders
    last week: 14
    record: 31-19-7
    Nice to see Jaroslav Halak get his game back on track with a 27-save shutout of the pesty Devils on Friday night. The veteran keeper had been miserable of late, losing four of five while allowing 15 goals on just 122 shots (.877 save percentage). The Isles will need both of their goaltenders playing well if they're going to stave off the hard-charging Penguins in the Metro Division and hang on to a playoff berth. Last week: 1-1-0

  • 13
    13Nashville Predators
    last week: 17
    record: 28-21-11
    That was a nice bounceback week for Pekka Rinne, who allowed three goals on 88 shots (.966 save percentage) after coughing up 16 on his previous 99 (.838). Keep an eye on the Preds ahead of the deadline. GM David Poile should be active in an effort to shore up an underperforming forward group. Last week: 2-0-1

  • 14
    14Detroit Red Wings
    last week: 12
    record: 29-20-11
    There’s something to be said for manufacturing points at this time of year, especially on the road. But after losing to the Senators (shootout) and Rangers (overtime), Detroit has dropped seven of its past eight games that have gone beyond 60 minutes. That could come back to bite ’em. Last week: 0-1-2

  • 15
    15Boston Bruins
    last week: 16
    Sure, that 4-2 road trip was swell, but following up a gutsy, determined effort like their 7–3 win in Dallas with a soft, undetermined game like their 6–4 loss to the Blue Jackets reminds everyone that these Bs are just another team. Not good, not bad ... and definitely not going anywhere. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 16
    16Philadelphia Flyers
    last week: 19
    record: 26-21-11
    May as well just turn this spot into a weekly tribute to Shayne Gostisbehere. The rookie blueliner is everything. His OT winner against the Maple Leafs on Saturday extended his point streak to 15 games, the fourth-longest ever by an NHL freshman and the longest by a defenseman in 20 years (Chris Chelios, 1995-96). Last week: 2-0-1

  • 17
    17Carolina Hurricanes
    last week: 13
    record: 27-23-10
    The Hurricanes may still lead the league in shot suppression, but their 15th-ranked goaltending (2.62 GAA) reveals that they’re not getting the big saves when they need them. That 4–2 loss to Ottawa on Thursday was a real gut punch. Last week: 2-2-0

  • 18
    18Colorado Avalanche
    last week: 20
    record: 31-27-4
    So the Avs added a 6' 4", 231-pound winger (ex-Maple Leaf Shawn Matthias) when what they really needed was more beef on the blue line hoof. Nothing wrong with bulking up the forward corps, but GM Joe Sakic has to do something about his defense (and no, P.K. Subban is not an option). Last week: 2-1-0

  • 19
    19Minnesota Wild
    last week: 30
    record: 27-22-10
    Who are these guys? The Wild aren’t just winning under new coach John Torchetti, they’re running up the score like the run-and-gun ’80s Oilers. Minnesota has scored 21 goals in its past four games, the same number it rang up in its previous nine. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 20
    20Ottawa Senators
    last week: 25
    record: 28-26-6
    Life after 60 suits the Senators. After knocking off both the Sabres and Red Wings in the shootout last week, Ottawa is 7-1 in its past eight games that have gone to extra time. Last week: 3-0-0

  • 21
    21New Jersey Devils
    last week: 15
    record: 29-24-7
    Just when it looked like the plucky Devils had it going, they drop three straight to Metropolitan rivals and fall out of the playoff picture. Those divisional games are killing them—New Jersey has won just eight of 21 so far against the rest of the Metro. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 22
    22Columbus Blue Jackets
    last week: 18
    record: 24-29-7
    The power play has been in La Toilette ever since the Ryan Johansen trade, but it was especially miserable in the six games leading up to Monday’s tilt against Boston, going one for 16 (6%). Nice then to see the unit click twice on three chances in that 6–4 win over the B's. Something to build on, maybe? Last week: 1-1-1

  • 23
    23Montreal Canadiens
    last week: 24
    record: 28-27-5
    Forget the P.K. Subban-Michel Therrien tiff. The biggest problem the Canadiens have to address is Max Pacioretty. The first-year captain has struggled under the weight of the letter this season, and there’s no doubt that his soft leadership has contributed to the team’s ongoing struggles. There]s a chance he emerges from this better for the experience, but he needs to use the final 20 games to establish himself in the role. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 24
    24Calgary Flames
    last week: 21
    record: 26-29-3
    Have to think the Flames, who have dropped four of five to essentially scuttle their playoff hopes, will be busy this week. Defenseman Kris Russell and forward Jiri Hudler are expected to be moved ahead of the trade deadline, but the deal that sent forward Markus Granlund to Vancouver for forward Hunter Shinkaruk shows that GM Brad Treliving isn't focusing strictly on UFAs. Definitely a team to watch. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 25
    25Buffalo Sabres
    last week: 22
    record: 24-29-7
    This could be a pivotal moment in the development of young Sam Reinhart. With top center Ryan O'Reilly expected to miss the next month (foot injury), the 20-year-old will be asked to fill in as Buffalo's No. 1. There could be some rocky moments, especially when matched up against bigger, more practiced foes, but the experience will be invaluable down the road. Last week: 1-1-1

  • 26
    26Vancouver Canucks
    last week: 23
    record: 23-24-12
    It took a superhuman effort from goaltender Ryan Miller, but the Canucks finally won a game at Rogers Arena on Sunday. That 5–1 victory over the Avs ended an 0-5-1 streak that marked the team’s worst home stretch since 2009. The Canucks still have the worst home record in the West (10-13-5), though. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 27
    27Winnipeg Jets
    last week: 26
    record: 25-29-4
    Big week for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. He has one of the most coveted assets ahead of the deadline in winger Andrew Ladd and is under intense pressure to land a sizable return. Then he has to figure out a hook to prevent the team’s frustrated fans from tuning out the Jets’ final (meaningless) 21 games. Last week: 0-2-1

  • 28
    arizona Coyotes
    last week: 28
    record: 27-26-6
    I wonder how much stuff winger Mikkel Boedker packed for the five-game road trip that kicked off with a loss in Washington on Monday night. There’s a good chance the pending UFA won’t be on the return trip to Phoenix. If he ends up getting dealt, as expected, he could be living out of that suitcase for awhile. Last week: 1-2-0

  • 29
    29Edmonton Oilers
    last week: 27
    record: 22-32-6
    Four straight losses on home ice and defeats in seven of eight overall. If nothing else, this confirms that GM Peter Chiarelli’s top priority has to be his blue line. Are there any answers to be found at the deadline? Probably not, but with assets to move, he needs to explore all options. Last week: 0-3-0

  • 30
    30Toronto Maple Leafs
    last week: 29
    record: 20-27-10
    The Great Sell-Off got underway early, with the Leafs moving three roster players—defenseman Roman Polak and forwards Nick Spaling and Shawn Matthias—for futures. By this time next week, the most talented team in Toronto might play in the AHL. Last week: 0-1-1

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